The word photography was first used in the 1830's. It is derived from two Greek words, photos ("light") and graphein ("to draw").
To draw with light.
It's a beautiful summary of what we do. When I discovered the original meaning, something deep within stirred.
Today we live in an oversaturated photographic space. As I write this, kids are heading back to school and my social media is filled with cute children equipped with backpacks and books.
I then looked at my Instagram account and saw saturated image, after saturated image. I had to ask myself: Have I become desensitized to photography? Do I require florescent sunsets and vibrant flowers in the foreground to stimulate and inspire me?
I was then led to this personal reflection: What if photography didn't exist?
Social media would be boring. If photography didn't exist, we could rule out video. A larger dependency and reliance would be given to the written word.
It's hard to imagine a world where something so entrenched in our culture doesn't exist.
Somewhere between the space of oversaturated stimuli and baulking at the thought of it not existing, is a place where I am reconciling why photography matters.
Recently I began blogging. I write personal reflections about life, faith and family. My photography is used to support my written words. I've noticed that I can be granted a few moments of someone attention when I intertwine my words with an image I've created.
Keith photographed the approach of Hurricane Irma in 2017. His image, Irma's Approach went viral and sold numerous prints. People's relatability and emotional connection to the storm they personally experienced caused them to bond with his piece.
As people who "draw with light", we are more than documenters of moments (although that is exactly what each mother did before they sent their children off to school). The time invested to learn the art, the financial requirements for gear, travel and education are all proof that there is a deeper need for self expression and enjoyment in the art of creating, drawing with light.
There's no single piece of art that has touched each eye that has viewed it. The beauty of art is that it's subjective. Created first from something deep within the artist, and then appreciated by those who it speaks to.
Your photography will speak to those it is meant for. At it's source though it's a personal expression of your experience, a journal of your travels, and your interpretation of a moment.
And at the end of the day, when the contest winners have been chosen, the gallery has selected their artists they want to feature, the prints have been packed up from the art festival, or you take account of the numbers of like on social media, the question that should be last on your lips are these:
- Did I enjoy the process of creating this piece
- Am I happy with what I have created and is it my best.
- What does this piece say to me and how can I share it with others?
Of course not every image you capture will be able to have these questions answered in the affirmative, but every once in a while, everything will line up in the field, your processing will flow, you'll create magic, and you'll know that the piece will become a benchmark of your life.
Dear artist, don't stop drawing with light.